The House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on Tuesday held a hearing centered around former President Donald Trump’s efforts to pressure state officials to overturn the 2020 election, either by pressuring election officials in battleground states to reject ballots or submit slates of fake electors to Congress.
“When Donald Trump tried to overturn the election results, he focused on just a few states. He wanted officials at the local and state level to say the vote was tainted by widespread fraud,” Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. said, adding: “And like [Vice President] Mike Pence, these public servants wouldn’t go along with Donald Trump’s scheme. And when they wouldn’t embrace the big lie and substitute the will of the voters with Donald Trump’s will to remain in power, Donald Trump worked to ensure they faced the consequences.”
“On November 3rd, 2020, Donald Trump ran for re-election to the office of the Presidency, and he lost,” California Rep. Adam Schiff, who led Tuesday’s proceedings, said. “For the first time in history, the losing presidential candidate fought to hold onto power. As we have seen in previous hearings, he did so through a variety of means.”
“Anyone who got in the way of Donald Trump’s continued hold on power … was the subject of a dangerous and escalating campaign of pressure,” Schiff said.
“This pressure campaign brought angry phone calls and texts, armed protests, intimidation, and, all too often, threats of violence and death,” he added. “State legislators were singled out. So too were statewide elections officials.”
“Everything we describe today, the relentless destructive pressure campaign on state and local officials, was all based on a lie,” Thompson said. “Donald Trump knew it. He did it anyway.”
Takeaways from the House Jan. 6 panel’s fourth public hearing:
‘I will not break my oath’: Arizona House Speaker Bowers details repeated efforts to pressure him by Trump, allies
Rusty Bowers, speaker of the Arizona state House of Representatives, said he was asked multiple times by former President Donald Trump and his allies to engage in efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in his state but resisted.
Testifying before the Jan. 6 committee Tuesday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., first asked Bowers, a Republican who voted for Trump, about a statement Trump released just before the hearing in which the ex-president claimed Bowers once told him the “election was rigged.”
“Anywhere anyone any time has said that I said the election was rigged, that would not be true,” Bowers said.
Bowers testified he told Trump twice he would not do anything illegal for him.
Bowers said Rudy Giuliani, an attorney for the Trump campaign, asked him in a post-election phone call to schedule an official committee hearing to focus on fraud claims.
When Giuliani told Bowers that 200,000 undocumented immigrants voted in the election and ballots were cast on behalf of 6,000 dead people, the speaker asked for evidence, he said. Giuliani claimed to have evidence he was willing to provide, but he never did, Bowers said.
Bowers refused to hold the hearing Giuliani asked for.
“I did not feel that the evidence, granted in its absence, merited a hearing, and I didn’t want to be used as a pawn,” Bowers said.
Another state lawmaker, however, scheduled the hearing at a hotel ballroom.
Giuliani also told Bowers that there was a legal theory that he could remove Arizona’s Biden electors and replace them with a slate of Trump electors.
Bowers said he wasn’t familiar with such a possibility and that he told Giuliani he was asking him to do something that violated his oath of office.
“It is a tenant of my faith that the Constitution is divinely inspired. … And so for me to do that because somebody just asked me to is foreign to my very being,” Bowers said.
In a later meeting with Giuilani, Bowers said he again, along with some Republican members of the state Senate, pressed Giuliani for evidence to support his voter fraud claims. Bowers said Giuliani turned to Jenna Ellis, another campaign attorney, who said they did not have evidence with them.
Bowers said Giuliani at one point said, “We’ve got lots of theories. We just don’t have the evidence.”
“I don’t know if that was a gaffe or maybe he didn’t think through what he said,” Bowers said. “But both myself and others in my group … remember that specifically, and afterwards we kind of laughed about it.”
Bowers said he also received a phone call from Trump attorney John Eastman on Jan. 4 asking him to decertify Arizona’s election results. He said Eastman told him, “Just do it and let the courts sort it out.”
The Arizona House speaker said he also was asked about U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., on Jan. 6 to sign a letter saying he would support decertification of the election results, but again refused.
Bowers resisted a multi-month campaign from Trump following the Nov. 3, 2020 elections to decertify the state’s slate of electors, or to place an illegitimate group of electors in their place.
On Tuesday, Bowers read aloud an entry from his personal journal authored in December 2020 amid the ongoing pressure to reject his oath of office. Bowers, who himself voted for the president in the 2020 elections, recalled friends growing angry with him for not heeding Trump’s public requests.
“It is painful to have friends who have been such a help to me turn on me with such rancor,” he wrote. I may in the eyes of men not hold correct opinions or act according to their vision or convictions. But I do not take this current situation in a light manner, a fearful manner or a vengeful manner.
“I do not want to be a winner by cheating,” Bowers’ journal entry continued. “I will not play with laws I swore allegiance to, with any contrived desire towards deflection of my deep foundational desire to follow God’s will, as I believe he led my conscience to embrace. How else will I ever approach him in the wilderness of life knowing that I asked his guidance only to show myself a coward in defending the course he let me take?”
Georgia officials refute Trump’s claims of election fraud: ‘The numbers are the numbers, the numbers don’t lie’
Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and election official Gabriel Sterling – both Republicans – were asked Tuesday about former president Donald Trump’s numerous claims of election fraud across the state, which Joe Biden won by about 11,700 votes.
The committee focused in particular on an hour-long phone call between Raffensperger and Trump on Jan. 2, where the president made a number of requests and claims. Among them was the ask to “find” enough votes to win the state.
“I need 11,000 votes. Give me a break,” Trump said to Raffensperger during the call.
“What I knew is that we didn’t have any votes to find,” Raffensperger told the committee. “There were no votes to find. That was an accurate count that had been certified and as our general counsel said, there was no shredding of ballots.”
Perhaps the election fraud conspiracy theory that gained the most traction involved a video from the State Farm Arena polling center in Atlanta.
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani showed an excerpt of the video at a Georgia state Senate hearing and claimed it showed election workers pulling out suitcases of illegal ballots for Joe Biden late in the night after poll watchers had left.
Giuliani called the video a “smoking gun.” Trump claimed if it hadn’t been for the supposed ballot dump, he would have received 10 times the votes he needed to win the state.
Elections officials debunked the claim immediately and again Tuesday.
“What it actually showed was Fulton County Election workers engaging in normal ballot processing,” Gabriel Sterling, chief operating officer in the Georgia secretary of state’s office, testified.
When asked about Trump’s claim that “suitcases of ballots” were wheeled into voting tabulation centers in order to sway the election in favor of Joe Biden, saying at least 18,000 votes were submitted in a single instance, Raffensperger said it was false.
“I believe that the president was referring to some of the counties when they would upload – but the ballots had all been accepted and had to be accepted, by state law, by 7 p.m.,” he told the committee. “So there were no additional ballots accepted after 7 p.m.”
Trump and his allies also claimed ballots were run through machines multiple times.
Sterling explained that sometimes there are “missed scans” and that it’s “standard operating procedure” to run them through the machine again so they’re counted. He added if there had indeed been a large number of ballots counted without a corresponding physical ballot, it would have been exposed in the hand recount, which was largely consistent with the initial numbers.
Sterling had tried to explain all this in a Dec. 7, 2020, press conference, when he said Trump’s lawyers had the same video and “chose to mislead state senators and the public about what was on that video.”
He has compared his efforts to combat disinformation in the face of Trump spreading false claims to his massive social media following as “a shovel trying to empty the ocean.”
Sterling said investigators for the Georgia secretary of state’s office reviewed 48 hours of video from the State Farm Arena in determining there was no wrongdoing. The committee showed previous video testimony of former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr and former Georgia U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak saying they investigated the Fulton County claims and found there was no evidence to support them.
Former acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue described a phone call he had with Trump in which the president was fixated on the Atlanta “suitcases.”
“I said: ‘No, sir, there is no suitcase. You can watch that video over and over. There is no suitcase. There was a wheelie bin where they carry the ballots,’” Donoghue testified.
Said Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Adam Schiff: “No matter how many times senior Department of Justice officials, including his own attorney general, told the president that these allegations were not true, President Trump kept promoting these lies and putting pressure on state officials to accept them.”
In another instance, Trump alleged that at least 5,000 dead people had registered to vote and cast ballots for Joe Biden.
“No, it’s not accurate,” Raffensperger said of that claim. “We found two dead people when I wrote my letter to Congress that’s dated January 6, and subsequent to that we found two more.”
When asked if it was possible that he “lost the result in the state of Georgia and somehow explained it away as a recalculation,” as posited by Trump, Raffensperger said it was not.
“No, the numbers are the numbers. The numbers don’t lie,” he told the committee. “We had many allegations and we investigated every single one of them.”
Former Georgia election worker targeted by Trump recalls aftermath: ‘I felt like it was all my fault’
Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia elections worker targeted by former president Donald Trump and his allies in the wake of the election, recalled the ways in which Trump’s lies still impact her day-to-day life.
Moss had worked elections in Georgia for over a decade alongside her mother, Ruby Freeman, and told the committee she was taught by her grandmother “how important it is to vote and how people before me – a lot of people, older people, my family did not have that.”
In the weeks after the election, Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani shared a video of Moss and Freeman counting ballots on One America News Network, falsely alleging they tampered with ballots. Giuliani and other allies mentioned both Moss and Freeman by name.
In a Jan. 2 call with Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger, Trump invoked their names 18 times, committee members said Tuesday.
Soon after Giuliani went public with his accusations, Moss’ social media was flooded with violent – and often racist – messages.
“It was just a lot of horrible things there,” Moss said, adding: “ A lot of threats wishing death upon me, telling me that, you know, I’ll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, be glad it’s 2020 and not 1920.”
In another video, Giuliani accused Moss’ mother of handing her a USB drive in order to switch or otherwise alter votes.
“What was your mom actually handing you on that video?” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., asked Moss on Tuesday.
“A ginger mint,” she replied.
The accusations from the Trump administration have a lasting effect on both Moss and Freeman. Moss quit her job due to the stress.
“I felt horrible. I felt like it was all my fault […] I just felt like it was my fault for putting my family in this situation,” Moss told the committee.
“It’s turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. I don’t transfer calls. I don’t want anyone knowing my name,” she added. “I don’t go to the grocery store at all. Haven’t been anywhere. I’ve gained about 60 pounds. I just don’t do that anymore. I don’t want to go anywhere. I second guess everything that I do.”
In recorded testimony played Tuesday, Freeman offered another gut-wrenching account of how her life has changed in the years since the 2020 election.
“There is nowhere I feel safe. Nowhere,” she said. “Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States target you? The president of the United States is supposed to represent every American, not to target one. And he targeted me.”
An attempt to tie Trump to the false electors plan
Members of the panel on Tuesday sought to tie former President Trump to a scheme to put forward alternate slates of electors in key battleground states in an attempt to overturn Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election.
In a videotaped deposition, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel testified that Trump called her to enlist her help in the plan before putting conservative lawyer John Eastman on the phone.
“Essentially, he turned the call over to Mr. Eastman, who then proceeded to talk about the importance of the RNC helping the campaign gather these contingent electors in case any of the legal challenges that were ongoing change the result of any dates,” McDaniel said.
“I think more just helping them reach out and assemble them, but my understanding is the campaign did take the lead and we just were helping them in that role,” she added.
Former Trump campaign official Robert Sinners testified that the scheme made him “angry.”
“No one really cared if people were putting themselves in jeopardy,” Sinners said, adding: “We were just kind of useful idiots or rubes at that point.”
“Every four years citizens from all over the United States go to the polls to elect their president,” California Rep. Adam Schiff said. “Under our Constitution, when we cast our votes for president we are actually voting to send electors pledged to our preferred candidate to the Electoral College. In December the electors in each state meet cast their votes and send those votes to Washington. There was only one legitimate slate of electors from each state.”
Schiff then went on to play a video which he said would show “how President Trump in his campaign were directly involved in advancing and coordinating the plot to replace legitimate Biden electors with fake electors not chosen by the voters,” and how the Trump campaign “convinced these fake electors to cast and submit their votes through fake certificates telling them that their votes would only be used in the event that President Trump won his legal challenges.”
“Yet when the President lost those legal challenges when courts rejected them as frivolous and without merit, the fake electoral scheme continued,” Schiff said, adding that some of former President Trump’s lawyers, known colloquially as “Team Normal,” walked away from the plan. “His own White House Counsel’s Office said that the plan was not legally sound.”
In the video, an investigative counsel for the Jan. 6 panel laid out details of the plan, beginning with Trump attorney Kenneth Chesebro’s memo “arguing that the Trump campaign should organize its own electors in the swing states that President Trump had lost.”
The panel played a taped deposition from Cassidy Hutchinson, an aide to former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, who said that the fake elector plan was being discussed by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and several of his associates and Meadows, as well as some members of Congress.
Hutchinson also testified that she heard White House lawyers say that the fake electors plan was illegal.
Bowers, the Arizona House Speaker, told the panel that Trump and Giuliani called him in November of 2020 to ask him to go along with the fake electors plan, adding: “I told them I did not want to be used as a pawn
Panel presents evidence staffer for Wisc. Sen. Ron Johnson tried to send a slate of fake electors to VP Pence
The House Jan. 6 panel presented new evidence obtained by the committee which showed a member of Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson’s staff reach out to Vice President Mike Pence’s office to deliver a fake slate of electors for Michigan and Wisconsin.
The panel showed text messages from Sean Riley, a top aide to Sen. Johnson, to Chris Hodgson, Pence’s director of legislative affairs.
“Johnson needs to hand something to VPOTUS please advise,” wrote Riley, a former special assistant to then-President Donald Trump.
“What is it?” Hodgson responded.
“Alternative slate of electors for MI and WI because archivist didn’t receive them,” Riley replied.
“Do not give that to him,” Hodgson answered.
A spokesperson for Sen. Johnson’s office said that he had “no involvement” in the fake elector plan.
“The senator had no involvement in the creation of an alternate slate of electors and had no foreknowledge that it was going to be delivered to our office,” the spokesperson said. “This was a staff to staff exchange. His new Chief of Staff contacted the Vice President’s office.”
“The Vice President’s office said not to give it to him and we did not,” the spokesperson added. “There was no further action taken. End of story.”
Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., the chair of the panel, told CNN that the panel has “not yet” reached out to Sen. Johnson about the evidence and the panel “hasn’t made a decision” about whether to call him to testify.
Officials recall aftermath of Trump sharing personal addresses, phone numbers
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., highlighted in his opening remarks how former president Donald Trump’s campaign against state election workers led to real threats of violence against the officials and their families, saying it served as a “precursor” to the violence on Jan. 6.
In late November and early December, Pennsylvania House speaker Brian Cutler received “daily voicemails from Trump’s lawyers” detailing their concerns over the election, which Cutler refused to answer.
Soon after, Trump ally Steve Bannon told supporters to protest at Cutler’s home.
“There were multiple protests. I actually don’t remember the exact number. There was at least three I think, outside either my district office or my home,” Cutler told the committee in a pre-taped video. “My son, Mike, my then 15-year-old-son, was home by himself for the first one. All of my personal information was doxed online. It was my personal email, my personal cell phone, and my home phone number.”
In early January, Donald Trump – in a series of messages posted to his social media pages – called on Michigan’s GOP Senate majority leader Mike Shirkey to decertify the state’s election results, and posted Shirkey’s personal cell phone number to millions of followers.
In pre-taped video testimony, Shirkey recalled getting “just shy of 4,000 text messages over a short period of time, calling to take action.”
“There was a loud noise – loud, consistent cadence of you know, ‘we hear that the Trump folks are calling and asking for changes in the electors and you guys can do this,’” Shirkey said of the messages he received. “Well, you know, they were believing things that were untrue.”
In his emotional testimony, Arizona House Speaker Bowers detailed “disturbing” protests outside his home by pro-Trump supporters, which took place even as his daughter was “gravely ill.”
“As others in the videos have mentioned,” Bowers said, referencing previous video testimony and deposition, “We received … in excess of 20,000 emails and tens of thousands of voicemails and texts which saturated our offices and we are unable to work, at least communicate.”
“But at home, up until even recently, it is the new pattern or a pattern in our lives to worry what will happen on Saturdays,” Bowers continued. “Because we have various groups come by, and they have had video panel trucks with videos of me, proclaiming me to be a pedophile and a pervert and a corrupt politician, and blaring loudspeakers in my neighborhood and leaving literature both on my property and arguing and threatening with neighbors and with myself.”
He also recalled one instance with an armed man who he described wore an insignia similar to that of far-right militia group the Three Percenters, without mentioning the group by name.
“There was one gentleman that had the three bars on his chest and he had a pistol and was threatening my neighbor, not with the pistol but just vocally,” Bowers said. “When I saw the gun I knew I had to get close.”
“And at the same time, on some of these, we had a daughter who was gravely ill who was upset by what was happening outside,” he added. It was disturbing. It’s disturbing.”
Bowers’ daughter died weeks after the insurrection on Jan. 28, 2021.
Raffensperger told the panel that his “cell phone was doxxed” and he was inundated with texts from all over the country. His wife was also targeted with harassing texts of her own, including some which he said were “sexualized attacks, which were disgusting.”
He also described that people broke into his daughter-in-law’s home: “My son has passed and she’s a wido, and has two kids. We’re very concerned about her safety also.”
“Why didn’t you just quit and walk away?” Schiff asked.
“Because I knew that we had follow the law,” he said. “We followed the Constitution. And I think sometimes moments require you to stand up and just take the shots. You’re doing your job, and that’s all we did. You know, we just followed the law, we followed the Constitution. And at the end of the day, President Trump came up short, but I had to be faithful to the Constitution. And that’s what I swore an oath to do.”